Ashburton - the best of the rest
By Michael Guerin
Yesterday’s Ashburton meeting was one of the strongest harness racing programmes of the season and the best form guide to New Zealand Cup week.
Here is what unfolded in the other features outside of the two open class races:
Race 4, Two-Year-Old Pacing Fillies: Treacherous Love continued the great recent run of North Island-trained horses at the south’s biggest meetings when she bolted away for trainer Brent Mangos. She went straight to the front and driver Ricky May got away with a very slow early section before she blasted up the straight in 26.5 seconds for her last 400m. Already the winner of the Delightful Lady Final she headed home a trifecta for pacing’s new rave stallion Captaintreacherous.
Race 5, Two-Year-Old Pacing Boys: When Cold Chisel beat Vessem in the Harness Million at Addington 11 days ago it was via a better run and the passing lane but this time the roles were reversed. Favourite Vessem did work hard early but Cold Chisel still worked hard and over-powered him so now must rate as our best male juvenile pacer, albeit it in an even crop. He is owned by Entain Australia boss Dean Shannon, who loves buying horses and trained by Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan who like training good young horses, so everybody went home happy. It was a bonus for Aussie rock fans and those who know horses with cool names deserve good things to happen to them.
Race 6: Three-Year-Old Pacing Fillies: The biggest talking point out of the race was the scratching of Millwood Nike, who was unbeaten in 15 and still is.
She got kicked by another horse yesterday morning so didn’t start and Aardiebytheseaside was the major beneficiary after working early, then copping a trail and holding out the luckless Treacherous Gal. Another win (kinda) for the North with Steve and Amanda Telfer having stables in both islands but their premiership-winning machine is run from South Auckland so while Aardiebytheseaside keeps winning she will be a northerner. Next stop is the Nevele R Fillies Final on NZ Cup Day and that means taking on Millwood Nike and Mantra Blue, which will be less fun.
Race 7, Three-Year-Old Trot: Star trainer of trotters Phil Williamson thought Aroha Kenny was his best three-year-old trotter but Isolate is making a strong case to change his mind. The big, fast and raw daughter of former age group star Escapee, Isolate gave most of our better three-year-old trotters a start and the go by in a 1:56.6 mile rate for 1700m. She is so inexperienced she can surely only get better and is still only second favourite for the NZ Trotting Oaks even though she thrashed favourite Walkinonsunshine yesterday. he big improver out of the race and the horse to beat in the NZ Trotting Derby on December 10 is Confessional.
Race 8: Three-Year-Old Pacing Boys: There was a little bit of time-machine about watching Tony Herlihy winning two features yesterday in NZ harness racing’s most successful colours. Herlihy rose to greatness sporting the silver and blue colours of his father-in-law, the late Roy Purdon and brother-in-law Barry in the 1980s and they ruled harness racing for two decades. These days those colours are worn by the horses Barry trains with Scott Phelan and Herlihy drives for them rarely as he has his own team and they have their own drivers. But Tony moved at the right time on Cold Chisel earlier in the card and again on Sooner The Better in this race to comprehensively beat two Dunn racing runners in Triple G and Who’s Delight. These horses all have two problems blocking their future pathways in every major race: Don’t Stop Dreaming and Merlin, who will be favourites when this crop get to their NZ Derby on December 10.
Race 10, Aged Pacing Mares: Aardie’s Express sat four wide for the first half of the race and won so easily she could have sat four wide the entire 1700m and she still would have won. She is very good, looked sounder yesterday than in recent starts and while she rated 1:52.6 for the 1700m she looks well capable of breaking 1:50 for the mile if, as intended, she makes it to Menangle in March.